Purchased from: Sweetwater
Features: This amp is a 36 watt, 7-tubed wet dream. It has five wattage settings: 36, 18, 5, 1, and 0. It has four built-in modulation effects: chorus, tremolo, flanger, and phaser. It also has a built-in noise gate, FX loop, boost, Tube Safety Control (which monitors and balances the tubes), MIDI control, and control via a free iPad app. It has four different, completely independent gain channels: Clean, Crunch, Lead, and Ultra. There is a master volume control, resonance control, presence control, reverb, EQ controls for Highs, Mids, and Lows, as well as volume and gain control for each individual channel. Delay controls include level, feedback, and time. The modulation effects also have their own intensity control.
Hughes and Kettner's RedBox is built in, so that on the "0 watt" setting the amp will work if plugged directly into a PA or a Recording Workstation. The RedBox feature is an absolute lifesaver, especially since I haven't invested in a good cabinet yet. Basically, if you don't know, RedBox simulates a guitar amp's sound, so that your tone isn't killed by a venue's PA speakers, if that's what you choose to use. Also, RedBox allows you to silently record or practice.
The GrandMeister 36 has an optional MIDI footswitch that I decided to buy for an additional $200. It is not needed to make the amp work, but it makes this already incredibly versatile amp even more versatile. It can act as a footswitch, where it is used to change channels, toggle boost and modulation, and act as a tap tempo for the various effects. It serves another purpose as well: it can be used to switch between competely customizeable presets. That's right, this amplifier can store 128 presets. This amp has almost rendered my pedalboard useless.
What may throw some people off is the configuration of the knobs. The EQ knobs serve at the same time as delay control knobs, and the control is toggled via a "FX Access" button on the amp. The "FX Access" button also changes the channel volume knob into the control for the type of modulation effect in use, and the channel gain knob is changed to a control for the intensity of the modulation FX. Also, all knob settings are remembered by the amp when switching between channels, and when not using presets. This may take a little bit of getting used to, but it's not to hard to get the hang of.
The only reasons the GrandMeister 36 gets a 9 out of 10 is because only one modulation effect can be used at a time, and its ease-of-use issues. Other than that, this amp's features completely make this amp worth the price. // 9
Sound: I play mostly jazz, progressive rock and metal, and fusion. I use a Schecter Diamond Series Damien Elite 8 string guitar, loaded with EMG active 808 pickups, and I played the GrandMeister 36 through my PA system using the built-in RedBox. Right away, I started putting it through its paces, playing every single factory preset. Each preset was unique, and so inspiring at times that i would come up with completely new melodies just from hearing a preset. Some presets were somewhat useful, but others were just ridiculous. The "ridiculous" presets were obviously there just to show what the amp can do, and I doubt I'll ever use them onstage, but they are easily tweakable to taste, so all the presets are salvageable. I like to have a lot of mids in my sound, and a lot of the higher-gain presets were scooped, so that may be why I wasn't a big fan of the presets.
I normally use the MIDI footswitch in preset mode, because I'm not someone who likes to constantly mess with the settings. I like to find the tones I like, and stick with them. With that in mind, I instantly started creating my own group of presets, overwriting the ones in Bank 1, because those are mostly flat clean tones anyway. I created my own clean tone, that fits the bill for Animals As Leaders-style tapping, I created a crunch tone for playing fusion and blues licks, a metal rhythm tone, and a lead tone. This amp noticeably has both great low-end response, and wonderful high end response as well. One must be careful, though, as all the settings are so customizeable that it is easy to make this amp sound bad. Even so, that's a pretty good problem to have. If you can't find the right tone with this amp, that tone probably does not exist.
The GrandMeister 36 is, sonically, incredible. As soon as I plugged in my guitar, my sterile EMG pickups sprung to life. The dynamic response of this amp is mindblowing. The built-in effects are, unlike some built-in effects in other amps, actually very good. Most amps just have effects as a selling point, or an afterthought. The effects included in the GrandMeister 36 are high-end, well made effects. The sound that comes out of this amp is second to none. And yes, it can djent. // 10
Reliability & Durability: The GrandMeister 36 has a metal chassis, with the front being either hard glass or plastic. When turned on, it has neon lights on the front that say its name and brand, and light up the knobs and controls. Aside from looking cool, it is also incredibly useful at dark venues. This amp is constructed very solidly. There is nothing loose on the inside, no rattling, nothing. With its Tube Safety Control, I can see this amp lasting a while between tube changes, and its tank-like construction will also contribute well to its longevity. It is also very reliable. I would use this amp at a gig without backup.
While it is German-designed, it is made in China, so I am skeptical about how durable it really is (I've had only had the amp for about a month). That is the reason this amp gets and 8 out of 10 in the department of Reliability and Durability. // 8
Overall Impression: I play everything from Animals As Leaders to Dethklok to Muddy Waters. The GrandMeister 36 is such a good match, that this amp and I are like peas and carrots. I cannot praise this amplifier enough. It is the Swiss Army Knife of tube amps. If this amp were stolen the person who stole it will live in fear for the rest of his or her life, or until I find him or her. But, if I were to not reenact the movie "Taken," I would not hesitate to buy another.
The criticisms I have for this amp are far and in between, the chief one being that only one modulation effect can be used at a time. That is literally the only thing I would change, if I had the chance to change it. I absolutely love everything about this amp, and my favorite feature is definitely the built-in RedBox. If you don't have a good cabinet, or if you want to record silently, the RedBox is an absolutely wonderful feature. Now, if I don't want to bring a heavy cabinet along, I don't have to. I can just bring my GrandMeister 36 and plug it straight into the house PA. There is, in fact, nothing I hate about this amp. // 10